Hearts of Yolo: Maggie Sanger

Tuesday, Jun 4, 2019

Maggie Sanger says a lot can be learned about life through flying a kite, like how much we take for granted. “I had a kite in my car from when my younger CASA child had played with it and Payton, the older CASA child that I had been representing for several years at that point asked if she could play with it. “I looked over and as she was flying it high in the sky. She told me she had never flown a kite before. She was 16 at the time, mature beyond her years, yet she’d never had the childhood experience of flying a kite. I still remember the joy in her eyes.”

Payton is now twenty-one, has a nine-month old daughter, and recently got married. “She is a Rockstar,” states Maggie. “She navigates complexity with grace, works extremely hard, and I have no doubt that she will achieve her dream of being a lawyer someday. She is also a great mother and gives her daughter an incredible amount of stability, love and support.”

Maggie advocated for Payton for eight years as her CASA. Maggie felt called to be a CASA volunteer after seeing a billboard and hearing about the organization from a few friends. “I was raising three step children and a child of my own at the time, but two were on their own I had a little bit of time.  I really felt called to make a difference for a child who needed me.”

As Maggie was choosing her first case, Payton’s case held deep meaning for her. “She was an only child of a single mom. I was a single mom to my own daughter for 13 years, so I understood that one-to-one mother, daughter bond. As I was choosing my case, Payton’s attorney actually commented that it would be perfect for me.”

The relationship with Payton evolved over time. Maggie states, “There was a point in time where she realized that I wasn’t being paid. It’s actually kind of sad because there is a sense of wonder with foster children over why an adult is in their lives that isn’t paid to be there. To me, it was really important to show her how much she matters and how much she deserves.”

Maggie says the key to being a CASA was empathic listening. “Foster kids have lots of people making decisions for them and telling them what to do.  Instead we would talk through her options.  What they really need from a CASA volunteer is someone to listen empathetically…and not just to the words they say, but to the feelings and emotions underneath. We all need help sorting out our feelings sometimes and most of us have a parent or a spouse to do that with. Foster children sometimes don’t have a mature listener there to just help.” 

Maggie and Payton remain in touch with one another. In fact, on the way to Payton’s recent baby shower, Payton’s biological mother told Payton that Maggie was like her aunt. Maggie says, “I like that we stay in touch and still have a close relationship. I feel honored to have had so many years with her, and to have had the privilege of watching her grow into the amazing young woman that she is today. She is one of the kindest, most generous people I know.”

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